Thursday, March 28, 2013

Do


I play my guitar and sing the two songs I know for the plants and the bowl of yellow onions on the windowsill in the kitchen. They are in a spotlight of morning sun. Ready for a painter with a plain canvas. My mug of orange zest herbal tea steams on the coffee table. I pour the water from the kettle and the old floral metal pot sizzles and spits from its spout, splashing onto the gas range. I love it. I love that I rid my life of my microwave.  In the fall, I bought this granny teakettle at a second hand store in Andersonville for $2.95. Sometimes--when in a hurry--I wish we still had our microwave, but mostly I'm happy for the barer counter and for forcing myself to slow down and let the oven preheat or the stovetop warm a skillet. Someone once told me that she and her husband read an article about how microwaves change food when they heat it. Like it makes it into something else chemically. I don't know. I'm not a scientist and I never even read the article she mentioned. But I heard her say it once in the break-room at work while she waited nearly her entire break to warm her soup in the toaster oven. Why would you bring soup to work if you can't properly heat it up? I thought to myself, admiring her determination. Anyway, a couple years later, when I had my yard sale before moving to Chicago, I decided to sell our microwave. We're downsizing! I told my husband, the one I knew who would miss it more than I. But he's gotten used it. Last night he wants frozen bean enchiladas, and so he takes off the wrapper, covers it in tin foil, and places it into the preheated 350 degree oven. We take the dog for her nightly stroll and when we get home, the smell of his dinner reaches into our noses and exits our salivating glands. 

I think we all get so caught up with whatever is fastest and easiest that we miss out on doing stuff and on knowing how to do stuff. Nice every day stuff like boiling water or sweeping the floor or tracing one's finger along the inked lines of a creased paper map. 

One of my new favorite things to do is bake bread. And I had a thought recently that I should get one of those big mixers or maybe a bread maker! But then I remembered how I love to squish the ivory dough between my fingers, feeling through its texture for when to add more flour. 



Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Inside Outside


The old American Dream of having a good job that can support a family has been trampled by the designer boots my generation has charged on credit cards. The old white-picket fence family life is now called old fashioned and boring and why waste your life changing diapers when you can get on reality television or a music video with some sexy pop star? We feel compelled to be more interesting than our parents and grandparents. We don't need marriage. We say. We don't need that old-fashioned custom to tell others that we're committed to one another. She knows. He knows. Besides divorces happen all the time so it's not like people really stick with the whole, "till death do us part" bull anyway. I'd rather lead a life of cell phone photographs, job jumping and future dodging. I feel as if we were all raised to believe--not from our parents necessarily, but from other outside sources--that we must follow our dreams. That because we are all unique and so very special, we must figure out a way to share ourselves with as many strangers as possible through some artform--because the more people who know you the more important you are--and then make lots of money from it. Because we are better than "real jobs". We must chase that pretty rainbow and when we find it, we'll get our promised pot of gold.   

I think many of us miss our rainbows because we are looking for the dark crayon-colored ones we once drew as children--as if the wax crumbs will be piled on the sidewalk, a sign to look up. But now what? We are nearing thirty and we realize we are not--and will probably never be--apart of that minuscule minority who make their living as artists. I can still create for the sake of loving it. And I can go to the movies without wishing I was in the movie or at the Oscars on a plush purple chair, winking my painted eye at the camera. I can say something funny once in awhile; doesn't mean I deserve a microphone and fifteen minutes of stagetime. Why do a hobby at all if it isn't going to turn into my path, my journey to superstardom? Thank you Words--no really thank you--for that stream of thoughts from my subconscious and into sentences because then I can see--really see--how fucking absurd it all is. When I look into my soul, I know what I want. It isn't headshots, talent agents and auditions. And that doesn't mean I don't love being on stage and acting in a play or playing a song for my husband on my guitar or making my family laugh at the dinner table. It just means that I care more about walking my dog to the beach where I can admire the soft cement sky as it is poked and pierced by the budding branches of hundred year old trees. Oh how I want to escape this sharp mold of what my generation considers "successful" and kick it into the street to be run over by a line of buses. Because I'm happy and that's what matters. Not whether I appear in an episode of CSI or get cast in a Broadway play. Because that's not the life that's right for me. I'm too fragile for that shit!   

I walk beside the paved path. I walk in the grass.



I return my smart phone to the store yesterday and ask for one less smart. I don't want to have it anymore, I tell the befuddled clerk. I don't go into detail. "I just don't want it anymore. I don't like how it makes me..." I trail off, realizing this is one  person who will not agree or understand me. "Money's tight and it just doesn't make sense for me." If I hadn't also just quit my daily caffeine intake, I'd have gone blindly into a deeper explanation, but my sobriety keeps me from spewing frivolous sentences to strangers, especially ones I can tell really don't give a damn.  

I am addicted to it, distracted by it, defeated by it. My phone, that is. I tell myself I'm looking for the time, but then I'm checking my email, responding to email, then checking all the applications I have downloaded as conveniences and ways to keep in touch with people. It does keep me a little closer to others, but predominantly--I'm now realizing--it keeps me distant from myself. 

The decision to rid my life of my smart phone starts when I cut my hair short last week. To my chin with layers. I try taking a photo with my phone because that is what having a smart phone does. It causes me to feel as if I must photograph every funny/fun/colorful/new moment I witness and experience. And so I try to take a picture of myself. I want it to show my hair, but mostly I want it to be a pretty picture for others to compliment and raise my droopy self-esteem, while also not looking like I'm self-involved (which is impossible because the act of taking a photo of one self and then posting it on the internet is equivalent to shouting "LOOK AT ME EVERYONE" in a quiet crowded room). I try taking several pictures, which embarrasses me now to write. I do not look satisfactory. Then I feel bad about myself. That's when I notice the curve of my neck. How often I am on my phone looking, checking, scrolling, messaging, self-doubting. It is constant. Whenever I have to wait or whenever I feel the slightest bit bored. It's as if I don't want my mind to form thoughts anymore and I must run and fine the words and photos of others to distract me from my own perfectly working mind. A distraction. That is what it is. A distraction from the present. Well, I want to be here now. I've spent too many years there then. Now it's time I look at the sky and see it. Now is the time I see my husband and not just through my phone while I take a picture of him because the light from the window has cast a dramatic shadow beneath his unshaven angular chin. It has only been a day with my old timey flip phone, but it feels like flight and not airplane--rumbling, shaky, do I trust this stranger to not crash?--kind of flight, but unencumbered feathered flight--no suitcase, no television, no radio, just the whistle of wind.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Dormancy of Dreams


I push aside the front door of an unfamiliar farmhouse and call for her. She's here. I know it. I grab at a wooden railing and sprint up sand-colored stairs. When I find her at the pit of my fear's labyrinth--stiffened by sorrow-drenched stillness in a room cluttered by shapes and shadows--my mother lies beneath blankets that stack like blank pages.

"I'm dying." I tell her. 

"I know." She replies with a surety that chokes me. 

I crawl into the cave of covers she's shaped and cling to her body like a slug on an unsteady stick.  

A fit of sobs shakes me; wet whimpering wakes me. My stomach skin becomes like the pleats of a compressing accordion, shrinking into folded rows before inhales inflate my paper gut--alternating and accumulating before streams of tears--thick as rock climbing ropes--tow me to the ledge of consciousness. Scott wakes to find my sweaty grip slipping. I can see his confused concern even in this darkness. I scramble up, tottering through my tale, but every word causes my heart to wince and backpedal down my esophagus. 

"It was so sad because she was so sad. Like she already knew I was dying and couldn't get out of bed because of her sadness." 

His arms coil my middle and dock my heaving blood vessels. I flip my puddled pillow, curl like a fiddlehead and stretch for sleep that is deep and dull. 

Months later, over chocolate bars, white wine and short glasses of fizzy brown beer Sheila, Eliza, Erika, Scott and I talk spirituality, which leads our discussion to dreams. 

After the death of her dear friend and mentor, Casey in the 1980s, Sheila began dreaming of Casey, dreaming with Casey. Sheila's father--a scientist, she tells us--disagreed that it was Casey visiting her. It became a sticking point between Sheila and her father, but that all changed the night he died. Years after Casey's death--without any warning--Sheila's father lay dying in his bed. Hundreds of miles away, Sheila slept, dreaming with him. In the dream she is pushing him in a wheelchair, rushing and running. They are both cracking up--the part I love most--and Sheila is telling her father to stop making her laugh because she has to get him to the hospital! They both know in the dream that he is dying. That he will die if they do not reach the automated doors of the Emergency Room. And yet, they cannot stop from howling. 

They never make it to the hospital. 

When Sheila's phone rang early the next morning, Liesel--Sheila's longtime love--shook Sheila awake.

"It's someone calling to tell me that my father died." Sheila said. 

"Are you going to get it?" Liesel asked. 

"No, not yet. I need a minute." 

It was Sheila's sister calling to break the news of their father's death.  

Within the safe spiritual space of a jubilant dream, Sheila's father let her down gently, while, simultaneously, showing her that he believed in her dreams after all. 

Next, Eliza tells the story of a mundane dream she once had. A dream four years later she experienced in real life. It is a dream of easily forgotten details--a kitchen sink, backyard grass, a man walking toward her--however this sequence of dreamt seconds hung like a chain of charms from the neck of her memory and years later, when she saw them happening to her and around her, she realized that the stranger from the old dream was her new boyfriend. 

"Did you tell him about it?" I ask about the man she still calls hers. 

"No, I didn't want to weird him out."   

"I had a horrible dream recently." I say, not realizing the potentially frightening correlation between their dreams and mine. I tell my friends the dream and weep as I do because it is safe to and because with their attentive concern and love, I simply can't not. At the end of my telling, I wipe at my eyes. Erika moves to the arm of the cream-colored couch and begins silently circling my back with the palm of her hand. "I don't know why I'm crying!" I sputter, but they don't judge me or think it's anything but sweet. 

Scott leans in--forearms to knees--and says how my dream could be a prediction: like if you compare it to Eliza's dream of her future love or Sheila's with her dying father. Not necessarily that my dream will happen soon, he reassures, but that it could be something that
happens later. 

This makes me cry all over again. Because even if we are both old as smooth sea glass, I can't imagine my death would ever be easy for either of us. She in her grief. Me in mine. Me in hers.